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Consumers (Finally) Get to Testify on Credit Card Woes

Last month, House Republicans on the Financial Services Committee silenced consumer witnesses at a hearing to examine proposed credit card reforms (as we reported here). The witnesses were scheduled to testify about tough experiences with their cards, including hidden fees, unannounced rate hikes and contract breaches on the part of the card companies. But at the last minute, GOP committee leaders required the consumers to sign vague waivers allowing the banks to discuss the witnesses’ financial histories — without limitations on the when, where and why. The witnesses refused, and their testimonies were scrapped by Democrats wishing to salvage the remainder of the hearing.

Well, now those same consumers will get another shot. The Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit has scheduled a Thursday hearing on legislation to make credit cards more consumer friendly (the same topic the committee explored last month), and four of the five silenced witnesses will be returning to testify. They did have to sign waivers, but this time around the language specifies that the card companies may discuss their clients’ finances only with the committee staff, and only then for purposes of the hearing at hand.

So the Republican efforts to save the big banks some embarrassment has backfired. Instead of being silenced, the witnesses’ saga will probably get them twice the attention this week that they otherwise would have.

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